Monday, 19 November 2007

Footprint of Roman soldier's sandal discovered at Hippos

Archaeologists have discovered a footprint made by the sandal of a Roman soldier in a wall surrounding the Hellenistic-Roman city of Hippos (Sussita), east of the Sea of Galilee. The footprint was discovered during this eighth season of excavation, led by Prof. Arthur Segal from the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa in conjunction with archaeologists from the Polish Academy of Sciences and Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota. "This rare footprint, which is complete and well preserved, hints at who built the walls, how and when," said Michael Eisenberg of the Zinman Institute at the University of Haifa.

The print, made by a hobnailed sandal called caliga, the sandal worn by Roman soldiers, is one of the only finds of this type. The discovery of the print in the cement led archaeologists to presume that legionnaires participated in construction of the walls.
The excavations of this section of the southern city walls also revealed towers and well-protected structures for positioning weapons such as catapults and ballistae built into the wall.

The ancient city of Hippos (Sussita), at 350 meters above sea level, overlooks the Sea of Galilee. The city was established during the period of Seleucid rule. It flourished during the Roman and Byzantine periods until it was destroyed by an earthquake in the year 749. Hippos (Sussita), together with Beit Shean and other cities east of the Jordan River, formed the "Decapolis", the area in which Jesus performed most of the miracles described in the New Testament. "The remains of Sussita, its view of the Golan Heights and the Galilee and its historic significance in Christianity, have made it one of the most attractive sites in northern Israel," said Prof. Segal.

This season's excavations have uncovered additional, important finds: the city's colonnaded street, some 240 meters long; a magnificent, marble-paneled bathhouse; and a glass bottle with an embossed face. On the final day of the dig another unusual find was uncovered: part of a white marble statue, a hand holding a staff, apparently part of a Greek god. The archaeologists are hopeful that during the next digging season they will find other pieces of the statue which is estimated to be 2 meters high.


Human ancestors more primitive that once thought:lower limb morphology-long legs and an arched foot

A team of researchers, including Herman Pontzer, Ph.D., assistant professor of physical anthropology in Arts & Sciences, has determined through analysis of the earliest known hominid fossils outside of Africa, recently discovered in Dmanisi, Georgia, the former Soviet republic, that the first human ancestors to inhabit Eurasia were more primitive than previously thought.

The fossils, dated to 1.8 million years old, show some modern aspects of lower limb morphology, such as long legs and an arched foot, but retain some primitive aspects of morphology in the shoulder and foot. The species had a small stature and brain size more similar to earlier species found in Africa.

"Thus, the earliest known hominins to have lived outside Africa in temperate zones of Eurasia did not yet display the full set of derived skeletal features," the researchers conclude.

The findings, published Sept. 20 in the journal "Nature," are a marked step in learning more about the first human ancestors to migrate from Africa.

The lead author of the paper is David Lordpkipanidze, director of the National Museum of Georgia. Collaborators on the study include Pontzer and researchers from Georgia, Switzerland, Italy and Spain.

The new evidence shows how this species had the anatomical and behavioral capacity to be successful across a range of environments and expand out of Africa, said Pontzer, who studies how the musculoskeletal anatomy of an animal reflect its performance, ecological niche and evolutionary history.

"This research tells us that the limb proportions and behavioral flexibility which allowed this species to expand out of Africa were there at least 1.8 million years ago," Pontzer said.

Dmanisi is the site of a medieval village located about 53 miles southwest of Tbilisi, Georgia on a promontory at the confluence of the Mashavera and Phinezauri rivers. Archaeological exploration of the ruins began in the 1930s, but systematic excavations were not undertaken until the 1980s. Pontzer has been studying the site for more than six years.